(Editor's Note: Throughout the off-season, DallasCowboys.com staff writers will take a closer look at the roster, analyzing players' impact last season and how each fits into the team's 2015 plans. Today's Roster Rundown entry features offensive guard Zack Martin.)
Name: Zack Martin
Height/Weight: 6-4 / 310
Experience: 1 season
College: Notre Dame
Key stat:Named first-team All-Pro in his first NFL season, making him the third-ever Cowboys rookie to earn that distinction, alongside Bob Hayes and Calvin Hill.
Contract Status:Signed through the 2017 season.
2014 Impact: Taken as the best available player off their board during the 2014 NFL Draft, Zack Martin was plugged into the starting lineup much like his line mates Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick were done before him. While at Notre Dame, Martin played as a left tackle, but it became increasingly clear that the front office's intention was to play him at guard as soon as the pick was made. The idea was a long standing belief by Jerry Jones and the staff that keeping the front of the pocket firm and clean for Tony Romo plays better to his strengths as a quarterback. It was Jones' understanding that Romo, due to his awareness and mobility, could deal with the pressure off the edge. When he did struggle, it was when that rush came through the middle. Jones viewed Martin as that final piece in the plan to give Romo the feeling that he could stand in the middle of that pocket to deliver the ball -- or if he had to slide forward that he had the confidence to do so. In their pre-draft preparation Jones and the staff knew that with Martin that they were also going to get a finisher in the running game. It was evident very early in the season that when the offense had success running the ball against the Seattle Seahawks and the work that Martin was able to put in against Brandon Mebane, they knew that they had drafted a special player.
Where He Fits: Even with the potential void at right tackle with Doug Free and Jermey Parnell becoming unrestricted free agents this spring, there is no chance that we would see this staff take Martin from his All-Pro spot at right guard and kick him outside to fill that spot. As I have explained, Martin is far too valuable inside to move and I expect that we will see either Free or Parnell re-signed, or the club will do what they have done three out of the past four drafts and that is to select a tackle to fill that spot. Just a side note on Martin from this season: he began to take practice snaps as a center during scout team work and from what I was told, adapted very well and would be considered as an outstanding backup.
Writers' AnalysisDavid Helman:You don't want to project too far ahead, considering he just finished his rookie season, but this has all the makings of a first-round pick that can set the tone for this franchise in the coming years. The Cowboys had heavy interest in a defensive playmaker, and they famously gave some consideration to drafting Johnny Manziel as their future quarterback. Instead, they got a first-year All-Pro and a guy who figures to help anchor the offensive line for at least the next three or four years, if not more. On top of that he's partnered next to another young Pro Bowler in Travis Frederick who also doesn't figure to be going anywhere in the near future. Zack Martin's presence on this team means the Cowboys can and should have one of the NFL's best interior lines for the remainder of Tony Romo's career, at the very least.